McGraw rejects plea deal in wife’s murder case

Published 12:24 pm Friday, March 21, 2014


Trial set for May 19

Although a courtroom full of family and friends wearing ribbons in memory of Vanessa Mintz, who was found murdered more than three years ago in Saluda, thought they were gong to hear a guilty plea from husband Travis McGraw, they instead watched him reject the plea deal.

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A special session was held on Friday, March 21 in Polk County Superior Court with Judge Marvin Pope hearing McGraw, 47, of Hendersonville reject the plea.

Both the prosecutor and defense attorney said they were surprised, with no one being notified of the rejection until Friday morning.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Alex Bass said McGraw is charged with one count of first-degree murder and several months ago attorneys entered into negotiations with the state giving McGraw a March 3 deadline on whether or not he would accept the terms of a plea deal. On March 3, Bass said, McGraw said he would take the deal.

When asked in court if McGraw would be taking the plea, McGraw, dressed in a black suit, answered, “no.”

Bass responded that the offer will be withdrawn and there will be no other offers made. Judge Pope asked McGraw if he’d had ample time to discuss the decision with his attorney, Tony Dalton, and McGraw responded, “yes sir.”

Bass said the trial is set for May 19 and asked how the defendant will plea. Dalton said McGraw will be pleading not guilty and told the Bulletin following the hearing that one of McGraw’s defenses will be alibi.

“The plea was fine and I was expecting to do the plea this morning,” Dalton said after the hearing, “so I was equally surprised with Mr. Bass. I was told this morning he was rejecting the plea.”

The family read a statement following the hearing saying they appreciate everyone’s support and prayers. Family members making the statement included Mintz’ father, Carl Mintz and her daughters, Jessica Freeman and Andrea Little Gray.


“We would like to say thank you to our friends and family who have helped us, especially to those who attended mom’s memorial service on Feb. 19 and committed to the 90 days of prayer,” said Freeman. “We ask that you please continue praying because we have greatly appreciated your support and we ask that you continue praying because we have been told today that we will carry on to the original court date May 19. We ask that you continue to pray. We greatly appreciate your support through this long and difficult time.”

Bass said the state is not extending any other plea offers and also said the case is not a death penalty case because there are no qualifying factors.

“Life without parole is the only possible sentence in this case,” said Bass.

Bass also said he was surprised McGraw didn’t accept the plea deal. Neither the state nor defense would give details on the plea deal.

On the May 19 trial, Bass said the state is ready to try the case.

“We’re ready,” Bass said. “We were ready before and we’re ready for trial now.”

During the hearing, Bass asked the judge to revoke McGraw’s bond, which was denied. McGraw has been out on bond since May 2013, with Dalton saying McGraw has never had a record, is a former police officer on disability for injuries sustained in service, has shown up to court hearings even when he has not been required to and is currently in treatment for his injuries. Dalton also said McGraw is being monitored by the probation office with an electronic bracelet at all times and is not a flight risk.

Dalton said the defense has been prepared for trial as well and will continue to prepare.

“We’ll just have to soldier on and prepare for the trial,” Dalton told reporters after the hearing.

He also said McGraw has always denied committing the crime.

“And he’s professed a total innocence,” Dalton said, “denial of doing the crime. That’s always been his position.”

Vanessa Mintz, 53, a Hendersonville realtor was found murdered by gunshot to the head at the Saluda Mountain Lodge, which her family owned at the time, on the morning of Feb. 19, 2011. Her husband McGraw was arrested and charged with first-degree murder four days later.